The St. Cloud Chamber of Commerce is working harder than ever at being an advocate for businesses and organizations, lifting the profile of those making a positive difference in Osceola County.

Osceola Technical College, or OTech, formerly known as Technical Education Center of Osceola (TECO), is doing its part by offering career certification programs that train residents for the advanced skills needed to staff some of the higher-wage technical jobs.
“We have companies offering plumbers close to $100,000 a year, just because of the demand of skilled workers,” OTech Principal Thomas Ott told the Chamber at a lunch event Thursday.

And they’ll be able to continue that work after Ott announced the school had won three of five Florida Department of Education Career Pathway Grants it applied for, and because of it will be able to implement a $410,000 IT apprenticeship program.

The culinary program at the OTech campus was highlighted at Thursday’s luncheon event. OTech’s programs contain both high school students and adults looking to continue education. All teachers come from their industry, Ott said.

“They want to teach their craft. You can see their passion in the classrooms,” he said.

In the past five years, OTech opened satellite campuses in St. Cloud and Poinciana, to “bring programs to the county, rather than forcing people in the county to come to us,” Ott said.

Career technical education programs like those at OTech are more accelerated and cheaper — but not cheap — than traditional college. But financial aid, just like the state and federal FAFSA programs available at a place like nearby Valencia College, are also available, and most students qualify for that aid.

“These lead to advanced certification, and students are able to stack credentials,” Ott said. “Graduates are viable members of our local workforce. We’re fulfilling sustainability; we train Osceola County residents to work in Osceola County.
“Career tech is not less than college. Studies show that for every staff member tech companies need with a Master’s degree, they need two with a Bachelor’s … and seven with skills.”

For information on the career technical education programs offered, go to